The Art of Hand Block Printing
September 07 2013
In October of 2012, I visited India for a month. I spent the majority of my time in the northwest part of the the country specifically Rajasthan, India's largest state . Rajasthan is known for its arts and crafts. Here I saw many different types of local art and witnessed the intricate steps on how each were created. All were unique and different to me and all took much skill, but one of the crafts stole my attention and imagination over the others.This was the ancient art of hand printing designs onto cloth. Not only did this art take creativity and precision, but the end expression was a colorful piece that I could actually wear! Ah yes, my favorite kind of art!
The Restored Havali that now houses the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing in Amber, Jaipur
As far back as the 12th century records show that certain areas in India have been renowned for their print work on cotton. In the medieval ages artists honed the technique of printing and dying fabric in Rajasthan. It would make sense then that a museum dedicated to this art is located outside of Jaipur in Rajasthan.
The Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing is where I gained a strong appreciation and knowledge about block printing. Situated in the small village of Amber, the museum houses exhibits and educational programs that highlight aspects of this ancient craft whose existence is threatened due to technological advances and social changes. However, the Anokhi line continues to be successful in preserving and revitalizing these unique textiles skills.
The exacting process to create block print art starts with teak wooden blocks intricately hand-carved to specific designs.
An Assortment of the Handmade Teak Printing Blocks
For each scarf pattern, the printer designs from one to thirty print blocks, each of which takes two days to carve.
Natural dyes are used for color and each element of the design is carefully pressed on the fabric. In designs that have more than one color the artist uses a series of different wood blocks to fill in or add different details to the the design. This work is done free-hand with incredible precision and skill.
Printers stamp every three-meter block of cloth approximately one thousand times! Image!
Me trying to be as precise as my Indian artist/teacher. And yes, please no tipping me! :)
Granted I couldn't wear the little handkerchief I created, but I was proud of my effort. And my small effort grew an even larger appreciation for the artisans who create these magnificent works on a daily basis.
It so happens that an Anokhi hand block printed scarf is the perfect elephant feeding accessory!!
Revived modern designs and exotic patterns, ranging from pastel florals to dramatic geometrics, are mesmerizing in their beauty and story. I feel lucky to have had such an intimate experience learning about this ancient textile craft and even more pleased to have these vibrant, handmade pieces available to you.
In the words of one of my customers, "The quality and workmanship is outstanding and the hues are like a kaleidoscope of colors."
Go discover for yourself these incredible block printing creations from an incredible country!